Michel Reynaud heaved a sigh of relief as the last protesting merchant skipper moved aside before the implacable approach of Cynthia Carluchi's pinnaces. A good quarter of the waiting merchantmen had already taken themselves off into hyper, where they were undoubtedly putting as many light-seconds as possible between themselves and Basilisk. The others—less than twenty ships all told, now—remained, hovering just beyond the half light-second volume of the terminus in hopes that normalcy would be restored and they would still be able to make transit to Manticore.
Personally, Reynaud didn't think there was a chance in hell "normalcy" would be restored to Basilisk any time soon.
He grunted at the thought and checked his plot once more. Almost exactly one hour had passed since the Peeps first turned up, and they were considerably less than nine light-minutes out from Medusa. Admiral Markham's horribly outnumbered task group was headed to intercept them, and Reynaud's stomach churned every time he thought of what would happen when they met.
Admiral Hanaby had been underway for forty-four minutes now, which put her over sixteen million klicks from the terminus, with her velocity up to 12,424 KPS. Which sounded impressive as hell, he thought bitterly, until he reflected that it meant she'd covered almost exactly one-and-a-half percent of the distance between the terminus and Basilisk. But at least the first of White Haven's destroyers should be arriving within another thirteen minutes, and—
An alarm shrilled. Michel Reynaud jerked bolt upright in his chair, and his face went paper white as the blood-bright icons of unidentified hyper footprints blossomed suddenly on his plot.